CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Millions of Americans have been jobless for more than a year since the pandemic started and most are having to file new claims. That process is causing confusion for some people as state and federal programs make the determination process more complicated than ever before.
Drew Bowers was filing a new unemployment claim earlier this month. He was laid off from The Kings Kitchen in Charlotte more than a year ago.
“We thought maybe it’s going to be a little bit and we just had no idea what was going on at the beginning,” Bowers told WBTV.
For more than a year he had zero issues with the NCDES system even as he transitioned from state unemployment benefits to pandemic unemployment assistance to extended benefits and more.
“I actually want to give DES credit for that because they kept saying we’re not exactly sure how we’re dealing with it. Don’t worry about it, just keep filing, will fix it, and that’s all we did,” Bowers said.
But as Bowers hit his one-year anniversary on unemployment, something finally seemed to go wrong.
When Bowers logged in on his claimant portal, instead of the regular weekly certification link, he saw a link to re-apply for unemployment, since he had reached the end of his benefit year. NCDES has been sending out tweets and FB messages encouraging people to re-apply who reached the end of their benefit year.
Bowers filed again but the new claimant page was alarming. He had been receiving $268 per week in benefits from a federal unemployment program but after he re-applied the claimant page showed he would be receiving UI benefits of just $30 per week. That’s because those state benefits are based on your most recent earnings, and Bowers hasn’t been working.
“It wasn’t until all this happened that I start calling DES agents and I literally had a DES agent say yeah, it looks like you kind of messed yourself up by filing a new claim,” Bowers said.
Just a few days after WBTV spoke with Bowers he was back receiving federal unemployment benefits. WBTV emailed NCDES to find out why Bowers’ claimant page was showing misleading information and why he received incorrect analysis from call center agents.
NCDES sent an email to Bowers saying he didn’t qualify for state unemployment benefits and would continue receiving 268 dollars a week plus $300 from the American Rescue Plan moving forward.
A spokesperson told us DES is required by law to re-determine eligibility after a person’s benefit year expires before then selecting which program they qualify for. An NCDES spokesperson wrote that it’s a process to try and determine which program a claimant fits into.
There are two criteria NCDES is evaluating to decide if someone is eligible for state unemployment benefits.
“If a person fails to meet either requirement, they are not eligible for state benefits and DES will determine whether they are eligible for federal benefits,” the spokesperson wrote.
The spokesperson told WBTV people should regularly be checking their claimant page for updates and messages about the process.
When asked about why Bowers received incorrect information from a call center agent the spokesperson told WBTV that it is a complicated system they’re always trying to improve.
“I really think that there’s something going on where they’re like there’s two programs that are just butting heads,” Bowers said.